Since Labor Day, I’ve been treated to some really fun, upscale cars. The new Corvette, the new Jaguar F-Type, a Bentley Mulsanne, and a couple of new Cadillacs. But I also got a chance to experience an affordable high-volume model from Ford, their Focus compact.
It seems I had never really driven the standard Focus since it debuted a few years ago, save for a quick around-the-block drive at an event. I’d spent time in the Focus EV pure plug-in electric (and liked it), as well as the high performance Focus ST (and liked it). But for some reason, the regular non-turbo gasoline Focus had eluded me.
Seeing so many on the road (Ford reports that the Focus has become one of their better sellers), I requested one from the company’s local media fleet, and as often happens, a fully-kitted Titanium 5-door was what was offered. And as I suspected, it’s a very nice little ride.
“Little” is probably a misleading term, as the car is actually very roomy. For those who want something smaller and a bit less expensive, the subcompact Fiesta is the starting point in Ford’s U.S. lineup. Between the roomy front seats and hatchback design, the larger Focus would be more than livable on both big shopping trips and a long road trip.
The design is the first thing everyone seems to notice; a beautifully sculpted shape that definitely says “Europe.” Ford’s game plan these days is to offer their various models, essentially the same, around the world. Years ago, Americans got kind of bland compact cars while folks in places like England, Germany, and Spain got much more interesting ones. No more. The Focus we can buy here is for all intents and purposes the same one on the roads of Europe.
Moving inside, the interior is quite modern and upscale in appearance. Having the Titanium trim level also brings things like leather seats (heated), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and every convenience you could want in a modern car. The interior is also amazingly quiet, especially considering that you’re inside the second-smallest car in Ford’s product line.
The engine in the Focus is a 2.0 liter four cylinder with direct injection and variable valve timing, and works well. It produces 160 horsepower in a very smooth manner, and the optional 6-speed automatic transmission shifts perfectly. A 5-speed manual is standard in some trim levels, but the majority of buyers choose the automatic, so that’s what you’re likely to find on Ford dealer lots.
There’s a special version of the Focus called SFE that boasts 40 mpg highway, but the regular cars with the automatic post numbers of 38 on the highway and 26 city. There’s also an upcoming 1.0 liter three cylinder that’s been rated at 45 on the highway.
With that kind of fuel economy, a decent amount of comfort, good styling, and lots of entertainment features, the Focus is a smart little commuter car. The Ford Sync system works very well (even though some are still complaining about the MyFordTouch system that controls it, along with everything else), with easy phone pairing and readout of text messages. No more fumbling for your phone to read a text – hit one button on the steering wheel and Sync reads it to you.
Base price for a Ford Focus sedan is $16,310, and the 5-door hatchback starts at $18,625 (minimum trim level on the hatch is SE). The example I drove was a Titanium model with options of navigation and an 18” wheel package, and it came in just shy of $26,000.
The Ford Focus is just one example of how far small cars have come in recent years. They’ll get you all the features of larger models, with a reasonable sticker price and good fuel economy. And in this car, the styling that folks in Europe enjoy too.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz